Next Step for Beyoncé

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Watching the Super Bowl Half Time Show, I was excited to see Beyoncé use her international platform to send a decisively pro-Black political message. As a sociologist, though, I took note of the typical over sexualization of black women and concur with others that sexy dancing is far from taking a revolutionary stance. Nevertheless, I was pleased to see Queen B adding public advocacy for black empowerment to her behind the scenes support. I was not pleased, however, at the blatant colorism embodied by the performance. Oversimplified for brevity, colorism is the racist higher valuation of lighter skin over darker skin and results in lighter skinned non-white people being privileged over their darker skinned brothers and sisters in everything from health to the criminal justice system (pdf). In spite of her donations and other shows of support in the black community, Beyoncé has and continues to uncritically capitalize on society’s biased preference for lighter skinned blacks. At the start of her career, for example, the other members of Destiny’s Child were encouraged to tan to facilitate Beyoncé standing out as the lightest. Her latest video, “Formation,” passes this on to the next generation by featuring her daughter, Blue Ivy, as the lightest in a group of little girls.

 

And when she performed with all-black female dancers at the Super Bowl, Beyoncé was, as usual, the lightest (and the only one with light hair) in the group. The fact that all of the Super Bowl dancers were darker than Beyoncé suggests they were selected not just for their dancing skills but for their appearance as well.

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To be fair, prominently featuring brown skinned, black-haired black women in one of the biggest events of the year is important to celebrate given the pervasiveness of colorism in the media. Nevertheless, when browner skinned black women are used as the backdrop against which the lighter skinned, long blondish-brown haired star can stand out and seemingly shine even brighter, then blackness is subordinated to whiteness despite any lyrical affirmations to the contrary.

Beyoncé’s Super Bowl performance sent viewers two messages. It verbally asserted that black lives, culture and politics are valuable while simultaneously visually affirming white aesthetic supremacy. The performance literally conveyed that even in 2016 when black women “get in formation” it is lightest skinned first and then, as the old adage goes, “if you’re black, get back.” Obviously Beyoncé cannot change her skin tone, and since light hair looks very nice on her I am not suggesting she dispense with her chosen hair color either. I am suggesting however that the next step in her growth, maturation and development as a black celebrity/political figure should be to take a long hard look at why she feels the need to so often position herself (and now her daughter) as lighter than others. Beyoncé has already shown that she has embraced #blacklivesmatter.

I look forward to the songs and shows to come were she someday to embrace #blackisbeautiful, too.

 

~ Jennifer Patrice Sims, PhD, is an adjunct professor of sociology at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. Her work examines racial perception, mixed race identity and the sociology of fictional societies, in particular Harry Potter.

An Update on the Rooney Rule: The NFL, Facebook, and Universities

It’s been a busy week for the Rooney rule—the rule adopted by the National Football League (NFL) to help increase diversity at the senior level by requiring at least one minority candidate be interviewed for each senior position. Last week we published Warren Waren’s call to higher education to institute such a rule in America’s colleges and universities in order to address the consistent racial disproportions among faculty.

That same week, Facebook announced it would include a similar rule in an effort to increase its diversity. And this week, the NFL itself updated the rule to include consideration of female candidates.

However, the biggest news in the Rooney rule comes from the University of Texas. Last Thursday, the new chancellor of University of Texas system announced a broad application of the Rooney rule to all administrative positions at the dean level and above.

In a presentation accompanying the formal announcement, Chancellor McCraven said,

This slide [referring to the racial gap between students and administrators] makes it very clear that we are not doing the job we ought to be doing in driving equal opportunity and fairness in our hiring and promotion processes. This is particularly disappointing because education is all about opportunity. Making sure our faculty and staff reflect the changing look of Texas is not just about fairness. It’s also about effectiveness. We need faculty, administrators and campus leaders who understand the people they’re serving, who come from the same kinds of places.

Which other college or university would be ready to implement such a program? Some other large public university? Perhaps one of the Ivy League? An elite research institution? One of our many small private colleges or universities? One of our community college systems? I hope my university (Texas A&M University) is next.

Institutional Racism: Comparing Oscar Nominations with Higher Education Faculty

Punxsutawney Phil must have seen his shadow last year at the Oscars and decided institutional racism was going to be around for another year. For the second year in a row no people of color were nominated for the top honors in America’s entertainment industry. In a country that is 37% people of color, we have no nominees. In an industry where 46% of moviegoers are people of color, we have no nominees. In an industry where we have recognized superstars giving top notch performances, we have no nominees. We hate to have expected it. But like Phil, we probably could have seen it coming.

The problem in this instance is not who is starring or who is watching. The problem is who is voting. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the voting body of the Oscars, is 94% white. This glaring example of institutional racism is the legacy of an antiquated system that is not yet ready for the 21st century. The voting body is not representative of the audience nor the performers. The decisions of that institution reproduce the biased racial composition of the leadership itself. What did we expect? That entrenched institutional racism would go away unchallenged?

As much as we love movies, and as much as they are a part of our culture and identity, there is another more important institution that is facing a similar problem of leadership: higher education. African Americans make up 13% of the U.S. population and 15% of the enrolled student population at America’s colleges, but only 5.5% of all full-time faculty are black. Back in 2007, when the black faculty rate was 5.4%, the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education predicted black faculty rates would reach parity with the percentage of blacks in the U.S. in about 140 years. Long time coming. Unfortunately, between 2009 and 2011, black faculty rates actually slipped back a little. So, that original prediction might be off by a generation or two.

An educated reader might guess that black faculty are not evenly distributed across America’s university system. Black faculty are concentrated within the small (and shrinking) portion of higher education called Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). The Washington Post reported in November 2015,

Remarkably, 96 percent of black tenured faculty are at HBCUs (even though HBCUs comprise only 3 percent of the nation’s 3000 colleges and universities). If HBCUs disappeared, so would most of the nation’s black academics.

Yet most college students and most African American college students do not attend HBCUs, they attend what we’ll call traditionally white institutions (TWIs). And those institutions need black faculty now. Badly. As mentioned above, at the student level, integration has reached parity nationally. The percent of students of color is close to their percent in the general population. This is indeed a cause for celebration. But now we face a new challenge of integrating the faculty.

Why do we have this problem? Why have we had in increase in black students and not an increase in black faculty? Compare fifteen percent of students to 5.5% of faculty. Why are we expecting faculty to catch up in 140 years? Do we not have great scholars ready to step into the classroom? We had a 43% increase in the number of black PhDs between 2000 and 2010, but during that time black faculty appointments at TWIs increased only 1.3%. This is not a crisis of supply.

Like with the Oscars, the problem is not with who is starring (professors of color) or who is watching (students of color)—the problem is who is voting. Leadership at universities look a lot like leadership at the Oscars. Both institutions are 90% to 95% white. Both are largely invitation-only affairs (make no mistake, social networks matter for every faculty appointment). Both bask in the glory of their own conceit. Both are prone to recreating their own biases. Both are self-regulating and quite insulated from external challenges. Do we expect either of these institutions to change without a challenge?

That challenge is not lost on students of color at traditionally white institutions. In 2015, students held anti-racism protests at scores of universities and colleges across the country. At over 50 campuses, students issued formal demands of their school’s leadership. Coupled with increased intensity of activism off-campus, the student movements began to get traction for their demands. Multiple university presidents have resigned, chancellors and deans have been removed. This is a student movement with power. But what is the main thing these student protesters want?

The website fivethirtyeight.com quantified the demands of 51 campus protest movements (those demands can be found here). There were, of course, many demands—requiring diversity training, renaming mascots, expanding mental health resources—but the modal response was some version of “we need more professors of color.” However, the most common demand was to increase the diversity of professors at TWIs.

We still face a graduation gap—in 2012, African Americans were 14% of students but only 9% of graduates. Also, the number of black students at top-tier, research one universities has apparently dropped. And we have a Supreme Court Justice who is openly considering a two-tiered racial system of higher education. So we face multiple issues. But correcting the proportion of black faculty in higher education might help solve these other problems. More faculty of color could reasonably help with the graduation gap in a number of ways. More faculty of color might help open pathways for our students of color into elite universities. And more faculty of color would help blunt the tired theory that African Americans should only attend “slower-track” schools.

Ultimately, I feel that both the Oscars and the academy will have to look a lot more like the people they serve or they will be replaced by institutions that do. But that is a long view. How do we get there from here? What if higher education used the Rooney Rule? This is the rule adopted by the National Football League (NFL) in 2003 to ensure that at least one minority candidate be interviewed for every senior position. In 2002, before the rule went into effect, minority players made up 70% of the players in the NFL, but only 6% of the coaches. In 2015, minority coaches made up almost 19% of the total (six out of thirty-two) down from a full 25% in 2011.

At my own institution, a public university serving over 55,000 students in Texas, one department had the opportunity to hire six new positions last year. This is very rare, even at large institutions. For each position, the faculty in the department selected three candidates to come for a campus interview. Out of 18 candidates, how many were people of color? None. That was a missed opportunity, completely lost on faculty whose percent black resembles the police department in Ferguson, Missouri. If we had a policy that resembled the Rooney Rule, we would have had at least six people of color visit our campus in hopes of impressing the mostly white faculty who make the decision to hire.

Surely, there is delicious irony in asking higher education to learn from football. But the principle of ensuring interviews for candidates of color is so direct and efficient that Facebook just announced it would be adopting the Rooney Rule to increase its diversity. In light of the reasonable success of integration at the top level in the NFL, and the serious effort to integrate at Facebook, and the clear demands of students of color across the country, it is time for us to finally integrate the faculty in higher education. And the Oscars might look into it, too.

Dr. Warren Waren is an Instructional Assistant Professor at Texas A&M University. His research focuses on racial residential segregation, gender differences in higher education, labor discrimination against Latino day laborers, and labor issues affecting same-sex couples. See his research work here.

White Supremacy and Property Rights: Tamir Rice and the Oregon Standoff

 

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In a span of just four days, news headlines in the US illustrated different aspects of white supremacy.  In one headline, we learned that the police officers who shot and killed Tamir Rice, a twelve year old, black child, as he played with a toy gun in a park in Cleveland, would face no charges in the young boy’s death. In another series of headlines a short time later, we watched a lenient, even nonchalant governmental response to a group of white, armed, anti-government protesters as they stormed the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon. Taken together, both highlight the importance of white property rights as a cornerstone in how white supremacy operates.

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The juxtaposition of the events in Ohio and Oregon illustrate white supremacy in the United States. .

On one hand, the killing of a child playing in a public space, the lack of aid rendered as he lay dying, and the assumption that he was much older than his young twelve years was justified through deeply established tropes that criminalized Tamir Rice’s black skin and that made him always already a suspect, even as a child.

On the other hand, Ammon Bundy and members of his white, anti-government militia, calling themselves “concerned citizens” while actively threatening to raise their arms against the federal government, are entitled to supply demands, press conferences, and a “wait and see” response by officials.

But the significance of recent events in Oregon extends beyond this obvious example of the differential treatment of racial groups by the state. We argue the events at the Oregon wildlife refuge are representative of what Arlo Kempf describes as a “colonial moment,” one that bolsters white supremacy and violence against people of color, as well as the ongoing dispossession of Indigenous peoples in the U.S. settler state.

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The concept of settler colonialism emphasizes the ongoing occupation and privatization of Indigenous territories and the systems of race necessary to sustain the displacement and marginalization of Indigenous peoples. From this perspective, colonization is not an event of the past, but rather an enduring process that continuously unfolds across the landscape. Colonial moments normalize white domination and the racial status quo by obscuring histories of racial violence and exploitation and by reinforcing largely unquestioned assumptions about white settler property ownership and entitlement to stolen lands.

For some, the Bundys – both Ammon and his father Cliven – have become folk heroes for their efforts to reclaim federally owned and regulated land and for resisting the overbearing, ‘tyrannical’ federal government. However, as the chairperson of the Burns Paiute Tribe, Charlotte Rodrique, has explicitly stated, the Paiute peoples had been living on these lands for thousands of years prior to the arrival of white settlers. Deep ironies abound as the militia members demand that the federal government return the land to ranchers, loggers, and miners after claiming the federal government had usurped their rights.

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Though it’s quite easy to dismiss the Bundys, their followers, and other white militias in the American West as a “radical fringe” group with a poor understanding of U.S. history, we believe that to do so would be ill informed. Not only is the Oregon standoff part of a much broader political, economic, and social movement rooted in individual private property rights and undergirded by white supremacy, the event – and popular reactions to it – sustain particular understandings of whiteness and land ownership that render invisible the displacement and exploitation of people of color that enabled white settlement and the acquisition of federal lands in this area in the first place.

 

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Though Oregon is popularly known as one of the whitest states in the nation and parodied for its left leaning politics and liberal views, less widely known is how the state’s contemporary racial geography was forged through racist policies at a variety of scales (municipal, state, federal) that facilitated indigenous land appropriation, racial exclusion and marginalization, and labor exploitation. Through federal homestead policy and land acts that transferred lands appropriated from Indigenous peoples to individual white settlers, and aided by Indigenous dispossession and genocide, Whites assumed ownership of the area’s most productive land and built their local infrastructure and economy with Japanese, Chinese, and Mexican immigrant labor.

The Oregon Donation Land At (1850), for example, allowed free land only to whites. In Oregon, 10,513,945 acres (17 percent of total lands) were homesteaded following the 1862 Homesteading Act and its subsequent iterations. Racial exclusion laws passed in 1849 and 1854 prevented blacks from living in Oregon Territory. These exclusions were written into the state’s first constitution in 1859, which made Oregon the only free state in the Union with a black exclusion clause Furthermore, when Oregon statehood was declared, Chinese and Japanese immigrants were prevented from owning land or holding mining claims. Oregon’s 1901 anti-miscegenation statute nullified and criminalized marriage between whites and people of color, making the offense punishable by imprisonment.

As is clear, discourses about land rights in the American West continue to obscure and naturalize the ongoing displacements of Native Peoples and policies of racial subjugation and exclusion that produced the racial and class makeup and patterns of land ownership in contemporary Oregon. As a colonial moment, the occupation of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge shores up this racial framework. Bundy’s sense of history and his “right” to claim land on behalf of “the people” demonstrates the continued centrality of settler colonialism and white supremacy in the United States.

Thinking about the killing of Tamir Rice together with the Oregon standoff reveals the contours of white supremacy and the ways in which social condition of whiteness – what it means to be white in America – is so deeply entwined histories of violence, marginalization, and dispossession that have rendered some lives more valuable than others.

White men making claim to their “private property” rights are “patriots”, while black children playing in public spaces are reasonable threats to life and property.

 

~ This post was written by Anne Bonds and Joshua Inwood.  Bonds is and Assistant Professor of Geography and Urban Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Her research focuses on gendered, raced, and classed inequality and the politics of economic development. Inwood is an Associate Professor of Geography and Africana Studies at the University of Tennessee. His research focuses on race, racism and the continuing significance of white supremacy for understanding the US.

Ripley’s Believe It or Not — and the White Sanitization of Racial History

Today, on Martin Luther King Day, Ripley’s Believe It or Not comic strip published the sketch of a smiling Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King as newlyweds The caption of the sketch reads “Martin Luther King Junior and Coretta Scott King spent their wedding night in a funeral parlor instead of a hotel.” The sentence is consistent with the strip’s teaser approach. Nonetheless, the reader is left to wonder why the just-married couple opted for a funeral parlor rather than a hotel room. Were they too cheap to get a room? Did they have a fetish for the macabre? Did someone in their immediate families die that day?

Of course, the reason that the newlyweds spent the night at the funeral parlor on the night of their wedding day on June 18, 1953, was that the local hotels in Marion, Alabama, denied them a room. It was through the help of friends including his father, Martin King Sr. who presided over the wedding ceremony in the Scott family’s backyard in nearby Heiberger, that they were allowed to stay in the funeral parlor.

The Ripley entry represents yet another example of the way history is sanitized when it comes to race. For example, we routinely hear about plantation tours that never mention the words “slavery” and “slave” because it is “not part of the official tour.” On the day honoring Dr. King, the Ripley comic strip writer missed an excellent teachable-moment opportunity by failing to tell, as the legendary conservative commentator Paul Harvey would say, “the rest of the story.”

Rogelio Sáenz is Dean of the College of Public Policy and Peter Flawn Professor of Demography at the University of Texas at San Antonio. He is co-author of Latinos in the United States: Diversity and Change and co-editor of The International Handbook of the Demography of Race and Ethnicity.

Black Twitter, White Tears

Something is happening everyday on Black Twitter, the social media platform that amplifies African American culture.

When Twitter began in 2006, it is doubtful that the founders had any idea that it would become a platform for race dialogue. Yet from Nicki Minaj’s critique of structural racism to Donald Trump spreading fabricated statistics about the relationship between race and crime to the recent discussion and debate over the #BlackGirlMagic and #OscarsSoWhite hashtags, here we are, almost ten years later, watching racial debates play out in 140 characters or less.

For those of us in academia, Twitter provides ample “teaching moments” for our students. The combination of relatability and timeliness makes Twitter something that millennial students can understand, often better than they can understand traditional academic material.

For example, in Angry White Men, sociologist Michael Kimmel elaborates the concept of aggrieved entitlement. Kimmel explains that because straight white men are used to race, gender, and sexual orientation privilege, recent societal changes towards equalizing the playing field– such as equal rights and the increasing social and economic parity for racial minorities, women, and LGBT Americans– feel like mysandry and oppression. Many of the people Kimmel interviewed felt as if the things they deserved were unfairly being taken away from or denied to them.

This feeling of entitlement to be the sole possessor of social goods is often evidenced on Twitter whenever black users create a culturally-relevant hashtag. For example, in August of 2015 the hashtag #IfHogwartsWasAnHBCU resulted in days of comical tweets from the amorphous, ever-present “Black Twitter”.  As Buzzfeed reported at the time, Black Twitter used this hashtag to poke fun at life at an historically black colleges, while also imagining a Harry Potter world of Hogwarts infused with Black culture.

Some of the more hilarious examples of this collective Black imagination included the band being better than the football team (and thus being the only real reason anyone attends football games), as well as speculation about which black celebrities would play which Harry Potter characters:

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Yet the Black imagination– conjured solely for the Black gaze– was too much for some Twitter users to handle. Feelings of entitlement to white dominance, both on social media and in society’s collective imagination, was no doubt the logic behind one user who tweeted that a hypothetical, magical HBCU was ruining Hogwarts for her:

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For Blacks to create a form of entertainment that neither featured nor benefitted the White majority was seen as, for lack of a better word, perverse.

Then, a few months later, right before Thanksgiving, the hashtag #ThanksgivingWithBlackFamilies found Blacks again sharing intra-cultural jokes and social commentary on our culture. Black users’ application of the hashtag revealed a collective insight into a social zeitgeist, one created and perpetuated by the fact that many black Americans share similar culture and experiences.

Still, before we had finished laughing so hard that we choked on our “diabetes-sweetened Sweet Tea”, some white Twitter users fired back, calling us “racists”.

In the words of the illustrious prophet, Yo Gotti, “We woke up to some Twitter beef.”

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Notice here that there is no attempt to gain awareness of a historically-suppressed perspective, no urge to debunk the narrative of power and privilege that has pervaded our country for centuries. No desire to understand or deconstruct the cultural implications of the hashtag. There is just one sentiment: rage. Rage at the perceived unfairness of asymmetrical license to stereotype Blacks.

This rather insidious envy, born of the desire to engage in uncritical mudslinging with impunity, obscured the more socially-significant questions that White Twitter users should have raised. Instead of asking, “I wonder where these cultural jokes are coming from?”, these Twitter users ask: “Why can’t we be ‘racist’ too?”

The disappointment shown towards a missed opportunity to subvert and demonize a celebration of Blackness is a clear sign of the terminal illness that mass majority racism has inflicted upon our society.

And that’s just half the problem.

Twitter users not only lamented this missed opportunity, but seemed incensed that their perspective on this intra-cultural issue wasn’t even acknowledged.

To expand, Black people are notorious for what is called “playing the dozens”, for our resilience, wit, and ability to laugh in order to get through tough times. After a long, harrowing year of watching the extrajudicial oppression and execution of countless innocent Black men and women, the #TWBF hashtag emerged as an attempt to gather around the cultural fire, to enjoy a holiday, to laugh off stereotypes, and to live in our resilience. This one social media phenomenon was a true and necessary manifestation of the cultural love, joy, and resilience shared within our culture, not only in spite of, but because of the race-specific and global challenges Blacks face in the world today.

This feeling of Black togetherness and camaraderie is ever-present, and the use of culturally-specific hashtags on Twitter only serve as contemporary mediums for expressing this inner beauty and strength. That the #TWBF hashtag was seen as a racist affront to Whites is as random as an outsider trying to get in on a family joke.

Dude. No one was even talking to (or about) you.

More so than classic white privilege or Kimmel’s concept of aggrieved entitlement, the white Twitter users who angrily object to the existence of black hashtags epitomize mass majority narcissism, wherein not only do Whites believe that they should be the sole possessors of social goods, but of the social gaze as well. For these White social media users to be offended by a minority group’s celebration, discussion, and acknowledgement of its own culture only further illuminates how deeply this mass majority narcissism sits in the bosom of our country.

In spite of the strange and self-centered opprobrium launched at Blacks having a good Turkey Day, Black Twitter users will continue to create and enjoy our hashtags. Because they’re fun. Because they’re funny. And because despite the narcissistic expectations of the mass majority,not everything on Twitter has to be about, for, or even intelligible to white users.

So stop being mad, son.

 

~ This post was written by Jennifer Patrice Sims, PhD, and Vanisha Renée Pierce, MS. Sims is an adjunct professor of sociology at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. Her work examines racial perception, mixed race identity and the sociology of fictional societies, in particular Harry Potter.  

Pierce is an urban fantasy, dystopian sci-fi, and sci-fi thriller novelist and creative entrepreneur. Her fiction work explores the collisions between socio-political hegemony and the Afro-futuristic imagination. Her entrepreneurial mission is to educate, inspire, and empower women to connect with their innate creativity.

Racism and Family: Reflections on Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Book

As the nation—and even the world—approaches yet another Rev./Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, some will be reflecting on how far we’ve come since King’s time. Others will be calling for renewed vigor toward activism and social justice, noting how far we still have to go toward King’s “dream.” Last year I was one of those voices. This year, however, I am instead overwhelmed by tremendous grief. The racism King deplored and gave his very life to combat simply will not leave us. It seems no sooner can I experience the joy of connecting to another person than it is cut short by the cold hard truth of what racism does to relationships, and to our inner beings. And just as I am grieving personal loss, I too am grieving the loss for all of humanity. That too many of the human species are condemned to lives far dimmer than what the bright light of their spirit could hold, if it weren’t for the invention of race and its rules of division.

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One analyst who shares my grief is Ta-nehisi Coates. I was deeply moved this summer after reading his new book Between the World and Me. After noticing some reviewers accuse Coates of overgeneralizing about whites and/or police officers (see here for example) I knew I had to get a copy to read for myself. I’m all too familiar with my students and others reading things that aren’t there when it comes to racism. Not surprisingly, I found Coates was not the mythical creature he was purported to be. (You know, the one that hates all white people and won’t give even them a chance–e.g., like the black person “who took your job,” or the “close” black friend you have). However, we still have yet to have a documented/verified sighting of such a black person!

No, far from being exclusionary or categorically dismissive, Coates places the blame exactly where it should be:

‘White America’ is a syndicate arrayed to protect its exclusive power to dominate and control our bodies. . . . without it, ‘white people’ would cease to exist for a want of reasons. There will surely always be people with straight hair and blue eyes, as there have been for all of history. But some of these straight-haired people with blue eyes have been ‘black,’ and this points to the great difference between their world and ours. We did not choose our fences. They were imposed on us. . .(p. 42)

These very fences are directly responsible for many of the losses I am grieving. I connected so deeply to Coates’ writing because he wrote as a parent torn between the beauty of a child who believes he can dwell above the veil, beyond the veil (see W.E.B. Du Bois), and the harsh reality that one’s job as a parent is to protect one’s children of color from being slaughtered by these fences—-all the while knowing in the end we will have little to no control when the unfairness of it all crashes down onto them. I am the one they look to, to tell them they can be anything they want to be when no one else will, but as a person who values honesty, I cannot lie to them. And as a parent who wants them to succeed, thrive, and prosper, I cannot ill-equip them by shielding them from these truths.

Comedians make jokes sometimes about the different parenting styles of whites and blacks—-as if they are simply differences in regional dialect or those color/hue palette variations like eye color that make the world go round and keep it interesting. But Coates so astutely implicates the very white power structure above for the perceived harshness of some black parenting styles. Just underneath that gruffness is nothing but racism-instilled fear:

This need to be always on guard was an unmeasured expenditure of energy, the slow siphoning of the essence. It contributed to the fast breakdown of our bodies. So I feared not just the violence of this world but the rules designed to protect you from it, the rules that would have you to contort your body to address the block, and contort again to be taken seriously by colleagues, and contort again so as not to give the police a reason. . . .This is how we lose our softness. This is how they steal our right to smile. . . It struck me that perhaps the defining feature of being drafted into the black race was the inescapable robbery of time, because moments we spent readying the mask, or readying ourselves to accept half as much, could not be recovered.(pp. 90-1).

These many costs of racism that take grave tolls on black bodies and minds have been documented empirically in Joe Feagin and Karyn McKinney’s book, The Many Costs of Racism — high rates of hypertension, workplace-induced carcinogens (i.e., much environmental racism), and other factors all ultimately resulting in lower life expectancies. Thus, one piece of my grief, for example, is that my children will never know their African American grandmother, who died at only 52, and was one of the most hardworking, loving, giving, caring, and musically talented members of the family. Yet many African Americans might only dream that their children had been able to see the age of 52—instead, their children, such as (most recently) Prince Jones, Michael Brown, Trayvon Brown, Tamir Rice, and far too many others must be mourned before they can even be parents themselves, much less barely finish their childhood.

Coates wrote Between the World and Me in the form of a letter to his son, who cried in his room inconsolably after learning of the Michael Brown verdict. Coates knew that telling his son everything’s going to be all right was not an option. After the book’s printing, no doubt Coates would not be surprised there would be no justice for Tamir Rice either. Racism literally takes away life, which is bad enough. But for those of us who remain, while we remain, racism does damage to our lives as well.

So I am grieving today that I had to have “the talk” with my 8-year old black son. Much as I wanted to put it off longer–the child still believes in Santa Claus–a well-meaning white family member forced my hand, by giving him the toy gun he asked for for Christmas. I had to tell him that a police officer might shoot and kill him with the justification that he thought he was holding a real gun. Lest his naïve white mother be talking about something she was clueless about, he turned to his older sister for some sort of confirmation or denial. When his sister–with hair like his and skin like his–told him, “yes, it’s true,” at that moment he knew that all the nice refrains in school about the police officer being his friend were but one version of the real story.

I am grieving that “the talk”–that was once associated with getting one’s driver’s license and becoming a young man–is now a talk for little ones who still take their steps down a staircase two feet at a time.

And while I shoulder this, I am also grieving a three-year relationship with the beautiful African American man I thought was my soul mate. Though each of us was raising children of our own, it was mentioned that my parenting was perhaps too optimistic. “We did not choose our fences” (Coates 2015:42), but those fences inevitably mean we only could connect but so much, and but for so long. Imagine how much more energy one could devote to strengthening one’s relationships if one’s body were not constantly drafted into the war of fighting racism. Perhaps fortuitously, a skilled and talented DJ chose “Footprints” as part of the soundtrack to our first date. It begins with a mother saying a routine “hurry back” goodbye to her son, only to lose him forever in a shooting—-much akin to the grief Coates chronicles in his interview with the mother of Prince Jones.

Some have told me Coates’ book was so painful, they had to put it down. While decontextualized excerpts from Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech have been used at times as some kind of “Kumbaya, why can’t we all just get along anthem,” Coates instead uses the concept of the “dream” to refer to the deluded whites who think the world is a meritocracy, the world is their oyster, and when and if problems arise, justice wins out in orderly fashion. Those whites and others who buy uncritically into the “dream” still understand racism as an aberration to an otherwise ethically grounded society, much as the occasional natural disaster. Coates notes that

Americans believe in the reality of ‘race’. . .But race is the child of racism, not the father. And the process of naming ‘the people’ has never been a matter of genealogy and physiognomy so much as one of hierarchy. . . [whiteness] has no real meaning divorced from the machinery of criminal power” (pp. 7-8)

Those who subscribe to the “dream” are usually ignorant of the fact that racism in the form of slavery and Jim Crow forms fully 83 percent of our nation’s history so it’s foundational and ongoing, as opposed to a temporary hiccup. When Michelle Alexander reviewed Coates’ book for The New York Times review of books, she read it twice–the first time she was so disheartened that he offered no optimistic, visionary, inspirational vision for the future, that she had to read it again a second time with new adjusted expectations. Coates does not provide a way out of the mess. And although I do not share Coates’ atheism/agnosticism, what lover of justice among us has not questioned why a benevolent God would allow the ugliness of racism to continue to rage with no end in sight?

I led two community discussions on Coates’ book in Fall 2015, and I asked my fellow readers whether they thought Coates was a pessimist. Though we did not find him to be offering optimism, we agreed that what Coates prescribes is instead consciousness. He calls us to be fully aware, cast off the denial, and pay attention. Indeed, to his son he wrote:

My wish for you is that you feel no need to constrict yourself to make other people comfortable. None of that can change the math anyway. I never wanted you to be twice as good as them, so much as I have always wanted you to attack every day of your brief bright life in struggle. The people who must believe they are white can never be your measuring stick. I would not have you descend into your own dream. I would have you be a conscious citizen of this terrible and beautiful world” (pp. 107-8).

If one listens closely, there are moments of beauty of this world Coates celebrates throughout these pages. Those are the moments when one dwells outside the veil, when the fences have been temporarily lifted, when the softness dares to emerge despite the inevitable risk of pain that looms just behind. Coates eloquently shares with the reader the moments when he is bowled over by the bold no-holds-barred confidence of his son or his wife, or the way his fellow students groove to the music at a party. They exude a soulfulness and a zeal for life that he cherishes in those moments. Those snapshots in time become all the more beautiful when you are fully conscious of how rare they are, and how inevitably they will be interrupted.

In a bereavement workshop after the passing of my father, I was reminded that grief is an indicator of once having loved and being loved in return. Toward the end of his life, this man sent me a card every year on MLK day to acknowledge and honor my work. He would also remind me of the Buddhist teaching on impermanence–everything, whether wondrous or painful, too shall pass. Coates brings us face to face with the kind of pain that is like fire or looking into the son-—at some point, many readers feel compelled to put the book down and look away, it is too heavy to bear. Yet, even though he is a skeptic, he is fully conscious. His eyes are wide open, and he does not want to miss a moment.

So on this Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, while the national focus on race and racism only calls to mind the sadness and pain it inflicts upon my relationships with those I love most, I am also challenged to follow Coates’ lead: as I grieve, I will keep conscious. I will cherish the moments my love and I got lost in the music and there were no fences between us. I will cherish the moments my children played with abandon without a care to how boisterous they were, and no one was there to invoke our fear of sanctions that might befall them when their “race” trumped their youthful innocence in someone’s eyes. Most of all I will keep telling the truth, and I will not keep silent, about the racism that keeps us all from being able to enjoy so many more of those moments with each other.

~ Eileen O’Brien is Associate Professor of Sociology and Assistant Chair of Social Sciences at Saint Leo University (Virginia campus). She is currently researching race and hip hop (with Nosh McTaggart) and race/gender in military families (with Stephanie Byrd). Her books include The Racial Middle, and Race Ethnicity Gender and Class (with Joseph Healey).

The Right’s Phony War on “Political Correctness”: The Big Microaggression Lie

Let’s be honest: The war on p.c. is really a war on minorities and others who dare raise their voices in protest.

Victim talk is back. According to two sociologists, Bradley Campbell and Jason Manning, our moral culture recently underwent a seismic shift. Rather than upholding appropriate standards of honor and dignity, we now inflate trifling slights into allegations of victimization. Minor grievances of all sorts are showcased in cyberspace in an effort to garner sympathy and support. This “new species of social control,” they maintain, threatens America where weakness suddenly rules. Their and similar allegations about this novel insidious “victimhood culture” are being applauded and proselytized in major newspapers, journals and talk shows – from the New York Times, and the Washington Post, to the Leonard Lopate Show and Time magazine. Even President Obama entered the fray by speaking out against the reported refusal of American students to grapple with controversial subjects under the pretext that it might distress them. He emphatically rejected the premise that students should be “coddled and protected from different points of views.”

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In an Atlantic Monthly cover story, Greg Lukianof & Jonathan Haidt contend that universities across the nation have become breeding grounds for “pathological thinking,” targeting “trigger warnings” in addition to microaggressions. In case it missed your radar, “microaggressions” designates subtle, often unintentional, forms of denigrating individuals based on their group membership. Over the last few years, students at colleges such as Oberlin, Swarthmore and Brown created sites to document and share the microaggressing they endured. Imported from trauma studies, “triggering” alludes to the practice whereby students request that professors provide forewarning that curricular content might be emotionally challenging, such as images and narratives of rape, abortion, lynching and genocide.

To be sure, some of the postings on microaggression blogs may be overblown, and many professors, myself included, are reluctant to include content warnings on our syllabi. For their part the “diversity managers” in university administration are sometimes too quick to jump into action, codifying and implementing cumbersome and overreaching protections. Nevertheless, these missteps, even in the aggregate, do not constitute evidence of a pervasive “victim mentality,” widespread moral decay, and an assault on free speech. Typically, Campbell and Manning’s evidence is anecdotal and relies on conflating substantively different forms of dissent. They lump together hunger strikes, hate crime hoaxes, protest suicides and microaggressions as comparable illustrations of this cultural turn. More importantly, microaggressions, trigger warnings, and even the controversy over Woodrow Wilson’s legacy, are not the ultimate target of this critique.

What politics underlies these clarion calls about victim culture and why have these fears surfaced now? After all, concerns that the United States has become a “nation of victims” have been around for the last quarter of a century. Indeed, that was the title of Charles Skyes’s 1993 book. His text was part of an avalanche of similarly constructed dire observations, such as Robert Hughes’s Culture of Complaint (1993), Alan Dershowitz’s Abuse Excuse (1994), and Dinesh D’Souza’s Illiberal Education (1991), to name just a few. Like Campbell, Manning, Lukiano and Haidt, these previous authors also associated victimhood with weakness, dependency, pathology, and moral decline. Their campaign to reshame victims was so successful that “victim” became a term of distain cynically deployed to call into question the character of those who claim to be injured, irrespective of their condition or the content of their grievance.

In the 1990s, anti-victimism aimed to dismantle the welfare state, and to disparage multiculturalism, progressive politics in general, and feminism and racial politics in particular. The authors of the current canards against victims initially appear more circumspect but the similarities between their objection and the previous iterations of the Jeremiads against Americans’ regression into victimism are striking. Once again we are told that the problem we face as a nation is not growing inequality or intractable forms of injustice, but those churlish individuals and perpetually aggrieved groups who insist on complaining, draining our limited resources of compassion. Note too that while they concede that victim talk is evident on the political Right, their examples focus primarily on race, gender and sexuality. Campbell and Manning thus cite Emma Sulkowicz’s protest, the mattress-dragging student at Columbia, as exemplary of “victimhood culture,” even though Sulkowicz opposes her mishandled rape, not a slight or a microagression. Sexual violence on college campuses remains a formidable problem, not a symptom of “coddled” co-eds.

It is no coincidence that concerns about victimhood culture arise precisely at the moment when demands to address the systemic threat to black lives are growing in number and intensity. Perhaps Sarah Palin’s daughter Bristol best revealed the politics catalyzing this revived gripe when she criticized President Obama for inviting Ahmed Mohamed (the 14 year old student whose school science project rendered him a terror suspect) to the White House. Tellingly, she explains that with this invitation Obama promotes “more racial strife that is already going on with the ‘Black Lives Matter’ crowd and encourages victimhood.” And, just a few days ago, the president of the American Enterprise Institute cautioned that victimhood undermines the ethos of individualism and self-help.

Despite the supposedly objective scholarship undergirding the current preoccupation with victimhood culture, and the claim to have discovered something new about American society, these alarm bells ring familiar — a revival of the old culture war-era effort to suppress claims about gender and race inequality, silence particular modes of protest deemed “victimist,” and thereby uphold the status quo. Neither politicizing suffering nor the backlash against protesters is new. Indeed, in 1905, WEB DuBois assured other African Americans that

I know the ears of the American people have become very sensitive to Negro complaints of late and profess to dislike whining. Let that worry none. No nation on earth ever complained and whined so much as this nation has, and we propose to follow the example.

Complaint can be productive and is necessary to fight against injustice. It’s the complaining about the complaining that represents the real danger to free speech and political progress.

~ Alyson Cole is a professor of political science at Queens College and the Graduate Center, CUNY, where she is Chair of the Political Science Department. She is the author of The Cult of True Victimhood: From the War on Welfare to the War on Terror. This post was originally posted at Salon.com, reproduced here by permission.

The Plight of Stateless Haitians

A stroke of a pen amending the constitution of the Dominican Republic in 2013 rendered an estimated 200,000 to 250,000 Haitians in the country a stateless people. Haitians in the Dominican Republic born as early as 1929 to undocumented parents became persons without a country.

In reality, there was a sliver of an opportunity for regularization status for those who could successfully navigate the labyrinthine system and who could produce proper documentation. This is complicated, as many persons of Haitian ancestry born in the Dominican Republic were never issued birth certificates. The regularization process was cumbersome even for those who had one parent that was Dominican. The deadline for applying for the naturalization program ended six months ago when only a handful of individuals who registered had actually received residence permits. Many applicants continue to live in limbo having no access to documents that they submitted along with their application fees.

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Over the last several months, many Haitians have been forced to leave for Haiti, a country many do not know. Wide estimates suggest that tens of thousands of Haitians have either been deported or have voluntarily left for Haiti. Those voluntarily leaving the Dominican Republic have done so in response to threats from native Dominicans, a large majority of whom favor the constitutional amendment ridding the country of Haitians. Approximately 3,000 Haitians are living in makeshift squalid camps located along Haiti’s border with the Dominican Republic, where they reside in the midst of an outbreak of cholera, little food, and the lack of potable water, sanitary sewage and medical care.

The history of Dominican-Haitian relations has been tainted by massive hate and racism, intensified by the Dominican Republic gaining its independence not from Spain, like many other countries in Latin America, but from Haiti in 1844. One of the ugliest stains in Dominican-Haitian relations is the massacre of Haitians—estimates ranging from 9,000 to 20,000—in the Dominican Republic in 1937 at the behest of Rafael Trujillo, the country’s tyrant who brutally reigned over the Dominican Republic for over three decades. (See also here)

Racism against Haitians in the country persists today. (see here and here) Racial lines are clearly drawn. Many Dominicans recognize their Spanish and indigenous roots but not their African ancestry that many possess. Dominicans tend to not see themselves as black, even if their skin color belies this perception; it is Haitians who are black. Dominicans have a wide variety of terms in their racial lexicon to identify themselves as anything but black. (See also here)

Haitians are segregated with a large number living in bateyes, sugar cane plantations, where they live in horrendous slavelike conditions. The life of Haitians in the bateyes in the Dominican Republic is depicted in the 2007 documentary “The Price of Sugar” featuring the Spanish priest Christopher Hartley and narrated by Paul Newman. I personally visited several bateyes in the Dominican Republic in 2009 and witnessed the dreadful conditions under which Haitians lived and toiled. In one batey families were crowded into very small shacks and there was no private facilities where people could bathe. In another batey children played and ran barefoot in grounds scattered with human and animal feces.

Over the last year, the issue of immigration has been in the news. Press reports have been dominated by the more than 1 million refugees and migrants that have arrived in Europe in 2015. In Texas there has been much attention to the resurgence of Central American children making their way to South Texas, as well as Governor Greg Abbott’s protest against the settling of Syrian refugees in the state.

The Haitian migrant crisis in the Dominican Republic has received far less attention. Despite pressure from political activists within the country as well as from abroad, the Dominican Republic government denies the statelessness status and the violation of basic human rights of Haitian migrants. (See also here)

The statelessness of Haitians is the latest setback for the poorest people in Latin America. A brighter light needs to be cast on the plight of Haitians without a country.

Note: A slightly revised version of this article was originally published in the Austin American-Statesman (December 31, 2015).

~ Rogelio Sáenz is Dean of the College of Public Policy and Peter Flawn Professor of Demography at the University of Texas at San Antonio. He is co-author of Latinos in the United States: Diversity and Change and co-editor of The International Handbook of the Demography of Race and Ethnicity.

2015 Year in Review

As 2015 comes to a close, this is my take on the most important trends and events of the last year in the ongoing struggle against racism.

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Black Lives Matter

What started as a hashtag #BlackLivesMatter in 2014, created by three Black, queer-identified women Patrisse Cullors, Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi, has grown into a full-fledged social movement in 2015. The movement not only shows no signs of going away, it’s become a political force to be reckoned with.  Here, Shantel Buggs and Noel Cazenave wrote about the problems with the white counter-narrative of “all lives matter,” and Lessie Branchhttp://www.racismreview.com/blog/2015/09/06/elisabeth-hasselbeck-fox-and-hate-grouplabels/ wrote about the call from conservative media to have Black Lives Mattered declared a “hate group.”

 Racism on College Campus

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In March of this year, members of a fraternity at the University of Oklahoma were captured on video singing a racist chant. The fraternity was eventually closed and two of the young men in the video were expelled from OU. Here, Edna Chun wrote about the lower salaries for faculty of color.

In the fall of this year, we witnessed the spread of the movement to college campuses. At the vanguard of this movement were the students at the University of Missouri, who galvanized their campus over the fall semester, ultimately leading to the ouster of the chancellor and a dean. Similar protests emerged at campuses across the U.S., including at Ithaca College, Smith College, Claremont McKenna College, and Yale University. At the University of Missouri, the tipping point of the protests seemed to be when the football team got involved and said they would refuse to play until the chancellor stepped down (he resigned a short time later).

Here, Darron Smith wrote about the long tradition of black athletes and social protest.  Eduardo Bonilla-Silva wrote a short piece about the “racial innocence game” that is used by whites to defend against charges of systemic racism on campuses.

Police Brutality & Murder

US police killings by race 2015

(image from The Counted, The Guardian)

Much of the social unrest in 2015 was driven by the systematic police brutality and murder of black people, particularly young, black men. The U.S. government does not collect data on murder by police, so it is left to journalists and activists and data scientists to do this important work, through projects like The Counted from The Guardian and Mapping Police Violence,

The situation of police violence in the U.S. is so egregiously in violation of international human rights standards, that in 2015 the United Nations made dozens of recommendations for eliminating racial discrimination and tackling excessive use of police force, including the creation of an independent commission to prosecute racially motivated crimes (which the U.S. declined to do).

Here, I wrote about why grand juries fail to indict officers, the fact that police-involved killings continue with no end in sight and police continue to get rewarded for killing citizens and what no one will say when a cop gets killed.

Terrorism, Islamophobia & White Supremacy

Terrorist attacks in Paris – in February and then again in November – led the headlines of global mainstream media outlets and fueled Islamophobia here in the U.S. The response to the attacks in February, in which many rallied around the slogan ‘Je Suis Charlie’ (for the magazine, Charlie Hebdo, that was targeted) drew a good deal of criticism. Here, Raul Perez and Sean Elias both offered critical takes on the whiteness of the Je Suis Charlie marches, as well as the racism of the Charlie Hebdo magazine.

Je Suis Charlie protest in France

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Muslims of all nationalities are racialized in the U.S. lens, as Saher Selod explained here. This form of racism had deadly consequences for three Muslim Americans in , Deah Shaddy Barakat, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, were shot and killed in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

As the Syrian refugee crisis worsened, the racialization of Muslims did as well, as Dr. Terence Fitzgerald explained here.

Overall in the U.S. and beyond, there was a reluctance by government officials and reporters to call any acts of violence “terrorism” that involved white men (yes, they’ve all been men) doing the violence. I wrote about this reluctance to name white terrorism in the shooting at Planned Parenthood in Colorado Spring and the deep roots in white supremacy of such acts, back in November.

Mass Murder, African American Church Arsons

Perhaps the most shocking act of white terrorism in 2015 was the murder of nine people during a Bible study. The Charleston shooting victims – Cynthia Hurd, 54; Susie Jackson, 87; Ethel Lance, 70; DePayne Middleton Doctor, 49; Clementa Pinckney, 41; Tywanza Sanders, 26; Daniel Simmons Sr., 74; Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, 45; and Myra Thompson, 59 – are a painful reminder that the violence of white supremacy costs lives.

Here, Sophie Bjork-James wrote about the shooter’s involvement on the Internet prior to the attack, Terence Fitzgerald asked important questions about the denial of truths in South Carolina, and I asked why is it always a white guy, and made the connection to other acts of white supremacist violence, like the bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building. President Obama looked for grace amidst the terrible carnage.

In the days following that attack, there were a string of arsons at African American churches.

Racism & Presidential Politics

As our first black president winds down his second term, Kimberley Ducey wrote about the persistent and pervasive racism that Obama faces. I wondered about racial justice after Obama. While his presidency has broken an important symbolic barrier, his policies have done little to address systemic racism in the U.S., and his use of drones for killing of those deemed terrorist threats is arguably one of the biggest drivers of global terrorism.

José Cobas has looked at how several of the candidates have responded to the issues and concerns of Latino/a voters, including Jeb Bush and Donald Trump. Trump seems to intent on creating his own cottage industry of anti-Latino racism, and anti-Latino racism has very real consequences for housing, as Maria Chavez explained.  Cobas has also written about the bumbling mainstream media attempts at reporting on Latino/a issues and a failed attempt by NBC to meet with Latino leaders.

Cara Canelmo wrote about the appeal of Ben Carson, and I critiqued Hillary Clinton as good for white feminism but bad for racial justice at the launch of her presidential campaign in April.

Complicated Role of Social Media

There’s much to say about the complicated role of social media and racism. Whether you want to argue that social media is driving liberation movements like black lives matter or that trolls and racist commenters, and white supremacists find a resurgent purpose online, you are both right and wrong. The reality is somewhere in the messy middle of these two.

In writing about social media and racism here, Kishonna Gray wrote about the systematically embedded discrimination that black gamers involved in Microsoft’s Xbox experience.

Shantel Buggs wrote about the importance of race in online dating – and the fact that any discussion of it is missing in on the most popular sociological titles of the year, Modern Romance.

In Germany, the government reached an agreement with Facebook, Twitter and Google to remove hate speech online within 24 hours. When I called for similar response to hate speech online here in the U.S., it still gets pretty widely regarded as outlandish.

Barring the possibility of government action, the usefulness of posting racist videos and emails online for public view and as a strategy for disrupting white-only backstage racism is a source of some hope. Of course, this hope is tempered by the fact that many whites refuse to be shamed by such public disclosures.

 

MILESTONES IN 2015

As always, there were milestones this year – remarkable people and events that were commemorated.

As Sean Elias wrote in this salute, the still living and quite remarkable Rep. John Conyers was honored for his activism in the civil rights movement and his distinguished career in the U.S. Congress.

In March, President Obama and thousands of others marked the 50th anniversary of the march at Selma in 1965.

And, April 21 marked the 50th anniversary of the death of Pedro Albizu Campos, a leader of the struggle to free Puerto Rico from US colonial rule.

This year also marked the 50th anniversary of the Moynihan Report, a racist, poverty-shaming report, Susan Greenbaum called it.  Stephen Steinberg offered an in-depth analysis of the research behind the report and what got left out.

April also marked the 23rd anniversary of the LA Riots, which many linked to the uprising in Baltimore.

 

This year we were also gifted by some amazing art, writing, and creative projects in the struggle against racism.  Art, as Edna Chun points out, can be part of the healing process.

AWARD-WINNING REPORTING ON SCHOOL SEGREGRATION:

One of my favorite pieces of work this year was the reporting of Nikole Hannah-Jones on school segregation now.  In addition to the magazine reporting she also collaborated with This American Life for a podcast series on the same topic.  If you haven’t listened to it, stop what you’re doing and go listen to it now. It’s so good – and so terrible.

DOCUMENTARY FILMS I WATCHED:

As per usual for me, I watched a ton of documentaries this year, and several of them are relevant for folks reading here and interested in racism. Stanley Nelson’s Panthers: Vanguards of the Revolution, is excellent, if a bit skewed to favor the men in the party. It would make a wonderful teaching companion to Alondra Nelson’s terrific book, Body and Soul: The Black Panther Party and the Fight against Medical Discrimination (University of Minnesota Press, 2013).

The Seven-Five, is ostensibly a documentary about police corruption in the NYPD, but my resistive read of the film is that it is all about a particular kind of white masculinity and the homoerotic bond between cops.

I also really appreciated, if not quite enjoyed, What Happened Miss Simone? as a kind of exploration of the madness that racism and sexism create when it crushes the spirit of a genius.

BOOKS I READ IN 2015 THAT STILL HAVE ME THINKING:

I read a lot this year, too, and several books have stayed with me:

Ta-Nahesi Coates seems to be everywhere this year and his Between the World and Me has received well-deserved praise. That said, I don’t think Coates is the next Baldwin (apologies to Professor Morrison), but that’s a subject for another time.  I was really affected by Claudia Rankine’s, Citizen: an American lyric, for the way it plays with form, it rests somewhere between prose and poetry.

For academic sociology books on racism, I found Paula Ioanide, The Emotional Politics of Racism: How Feelings Trump Facts in the Era of Colorblindnessto be a timely intervention into the current political landscape. The subtitle “how feelings trump facts” is not intended to be a play on the leading republican candidate, but it could very well be.

 

THANKS TO ALL OUR AUTHORS, COMMENTERS, READERS & SUBSCRIBERS

Standing with you in struggle.